Alaska State Tree

Sitka Spruce

Tree, a state symbol

(Picea sitchensis)

Adopted in 1962.

Sitka spruce, (Picea sitchensis,) known also as tideland spruce, coast spruce, and yellow spruce, is the largest of the world's spruces and is one of the most prominent forest trees in stands along the northwest coast of North America.

Alaska didn't become a state, officially, until 1959. When it entered the union, it brought with it an official state seal, flag, flower, bird and a song all adopted by the Alaska Territorial Legislature.

After becoming a state, the; state fish (Chinook salmon) and a state tree (Sitka spruce) were the first new symbols to be recognized in 1962

Sitka spruce is associated with western hemlock (Tsuga heterophylla.) House Bill No. 325 proposed the Sitka spruce, "the most valuable tree species in Alaska," as the official state tree of Alaska. The state legislation was approved and the Sitka spruce (Picea sitchensis) became the official tree of the state on February 28, 1962.

Alaska State Tree: Sitka Spruce

Tree, a state symbol

This coastal species is seldom found far from tidewater, where moist maritime air and summer fogs help to maintain humid conditions necessary for growth. Throughout most of its range from northern California to Alaska, Sitka spruce is associated with western hemlock (Tsuga heterophylla) in dense stands where growth rates are among the highest in North America. It is a valuable commercial timber species for lumber, pulp, and many special uses (15,16).

Usually growing to about 70m, the Sitka Spruce has distinctive 4-sided needles, which are somewhat flat, and very pointed and sharp. These needles are hard to roll between the thumb and forefinger. They are yellowish or bluish green with a whitish bottom. The seed cones have jagged, irregularily toothed scales.

Common Names of the Alaska Sitka Spruce

Sitka Spruce, coast spruce, tideland spruce, tidewater spruce

Picea is Latin for pitch, and sitchensis refers to Sitka, Alaska, the area where the tree was first sighted by Europeans. "Spruce"in Henry VIII's time, meant smart, dapper, or in fashion. By the 19th century 'spruce up' meant to tidy, and was also a reference to anything from Prussia, which is where spruce (not the Sitka Spruce) originated.

Identification of the Sitka Spruce

Tree, a state symbol
  • Leaf: Single, linear, spirally arranged; 1 inch long with a very sharp tip, needles point perpendicular and forward on the twig; yellow-green above with white bloom below. Each needle borne on a raised, woody peg (sterigma).
  • Flower: Monoecious; male cones erect or pendent; female cones green to purple and borne near the top of the tree.
  • Fruit: Oblong cones, 1 1/2 to 3 1/2 inches long with thin, woody, spirally arranged scales that have very thin, notched edges and are tan when mature. Cones ripen in one growing season and occur near the top of the tree.
  • Twig: Current year's twigs are moderately stout and yellow-brown to orange-brown. All twigs are covered with numerous distinct woody pegs (sterigmata).
  • Bark: On young trees, bark is thin and scaly, usually gray. On mature trees it's usually less than 1 inch thick; gray to brown and scaly.
  • Form: Sitka spruce is the largest of all spruces. It commonly is 125 to 180 feet tall and 3 to 5 feet in diameter, but can be much larger. Crown is open with somewhat pendulous branches; branches commonly reach the ground and dead branches are retained for a long time. Base of trees are commonly swollen and buttressed.

Alaska Law

The law designating the itka spruce as the official Alaska state tree is found in the Alaska Statutes, Title 44, Chapter 44.09, Section 44.09.070.

SECTION 44.09.070.

Sec. 44.09.070. State tree.

The Sitka spruce (Picea sitchensis), which is recognized as the most valuable tree species in Alaska and which is found in both national forests of the state, is the official tree of the state

Taxonomic Hierarchy: Sitka Spruce

Kingdom: Plantae - Plants
    Subkingdom: Tracheobionta - Vascular plants
Superdivision: Spermatophyta - Seed plants
    Division: Coniferophyta - Conifers
Class: Pinopsida
Order: Pinales
Family: Pinaceae - Pine family
Genus: Picea A. Dietr. - spruce
Species: Picea sitchensis (Bong.) Carrie`re - Sitka spruce

State Trees
State Trees
All of the state trees, except the Hawaii state tree, are native to the state.